Born Again (1978)

PG | 110 mins | Biography | 15 November 1978

Director:

Irving Rapper

Writer:

Walter Bloch

Producer:

Frank Capra, Jr.

Cinematographer:

Harry Stradling, Jr.

Editor:

Axel Hubert

Production Designer:

William J. Kenney
Full page view
HISTORY

       The 15 Jun 1977 HR announced Frank Capra, Jr., as line producer but he is credited onscreen as producer. A Dec 1977 HR news brief reported that Brigid O’Brien had been cast as a news reporter. Onscreen, however, she is credited as “Holly Helm,” the role of the secretary to Dean Jones’s character, “Charles ‘Chuck’ Colson.” The role of “John Ehrlichman” is misspelled “John Erlichman” in the closing credits. Likewise, the name of the singer of the title song, Larnelle Harris, is misspelled “Larnell Harris” in the onscreen credits.
       In the 7 Nov 1977 LAT, executive producer Robert L. Munger related that he was introduced to Charles W. Colson through mutual friend and fellow born-again Christian, singer Pat Boone. Colson had received twelve offers to adapt his biography, Born Again, into a feature film and was in need of advice. By the end of the meeting, Munger had dropped his current project and agreed to produce the adaptation himself. On 26 Jan 1977, HR and DV announced that Robert L. Munger Productions had acquired the film rights to Colson’s biography.
       According to production notes in the AMPAS library files and the 23 Dec 1977 LAT, there were several born-again Christians associated with the production, including all of the film’s investors; Munger; Jones; screenwriter Walter Bloch; Senator Harold Hughes, who portrayed himself onscreen; and actor Christopher Conrad, who played Colson’s son “Christian Colson.” By the end of the production, actor Jay Robinson, who portrayed Colson’s partner, “David Shapiro,” had become a born-again Christian as well.
       ... More Less

       The 15 Jun 1977 HR announced Frank Capra, Jr., as line producer but he is credited onscreen as producer. A Dec 1977 HR news brief reported that Brigid O’Brien had been cast as a news reporter. Onscreen, however, she is credited as “Holly Helm,” the role of the secretary to Dean Jones’s character, “Charles ‘Chuck’ Colson.” The role of “John Ehrlichman” is misspelled “John Erlichman” in the closing credits. Likewise, the name of the singer of the title song, Larnelle Harris, is misspelled “Larnell Harris” in the onscreen credits.
       In the 7 Nov 1977 LAT, executive producer Robert L. Munger related that he was introduced to Charles W. Colson through mutual friend and fellow born-again Christian, singer Pat Boone. Colson had received twelve offers to adapt his biography, Born Again, into a feature film and was in need of advice. By the end of the meeting, Munger had dropped his current project and agreed to produce the adaptation himself. On 26 Jan 1977, HR and DV announced that Robert L. Munger Productions had acquired the film rights to Colson’s biography.
       According to production notes in the AMPAS library files and the 23 Dec 1977 LAT, there were several born-again Christians associated with the production, including all of the film’s investors; Munger; Jones; screenwriter Walter Bloch; Senator Harold Hughes, who portrayed himself onscreen; and actor Christopher Conrad, who played Colson’s son “Christian Colson.” By the end of the production, actor Jay Robinson, who portrayed Colson’s partner, “David Shapiro,” had become a born-again Christian as well.
       Munger had consulted on films before, most notably The Omen (1976, see entry), but according to the 23 Dec 1977 LAT, Born Again marked his first time as a feature film producer.
       The 28 Nov 1977 HR announced that Arthur Kennedy would play “Tom Phillips,” but on 29 Dec 1977, HR reported that Dana Andrews replaced Kennedy in the role. Likewise, Cliff Robertson and Robert Duvall were under consideration for the lead role that went to Jones, stated the 23 Dec 1977 LAT.
       With a shooting schedule of eight to nine weeks, Born Again began principal photography on location 14 Dec 1977 in and near Washington, D.C., reported the 13 Dec 1977 HR and the 23 Dec 1977 LAT. According to production notes, Washington exteriors included the Capitol building, the White House, the Executive Office Building, the Justice Department, the Washington and Jefferson Monuments, the Lincoln Memorial, St. John’s Church and the Watergate complex. On location in CA, the Los Angeles Traffic Court stood in for Judge Gesell’s Washington courtroom and the Chino, CA, penitentiary known officially as the California Institute for Men doubled as the federal prison camp on Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, AL, where Colson served his sentence. Soundstage interiors included replicas of the offices for “H. R. Haldeman,” John Ehrlichman and Colson, to which Colson donated several items.
       The 25 Jan 1978 HR reported that the production was filming in Chino, CA, and the 9 Feb 1978 DV announced that Born Again had completed principal photography in Saugus, CA, 8 Feb 1978, three days ahead of schedule and under its $3 million budget. With the exception of five days of shooting at The Burbank Studios in Burbank, CA, the entire picture had been filmed on location.
       The 14 Jul 1978 DV announced that two hundred prints of the movie would be released over a series of two-week periods in three successive regional waves. The film was scheduled to open 29 Sept 1978 and 6 Oct 1978 in Washington, D.C.; Dallas, TX; Chicago, IL; Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; and Atlanta, GA. Starting 3 Nov 1978 and 10 Dec 1978, the studio planned to move the picture to Charlotte, NC; Los Angeles, CA; Denver, CO; and Milwaukee, WI. The last wave was to take place during the Christmas and New Year holidays in Minneapolis, MN; Des Moines, IA; Tampa and St. Petersburg, FL; Indianapolis, IN; and New Orleans, LA. Born Again opened in Los Angeles, CA, 15 Nov 1978, according to the 12 Nov 1978 LAT.
       The movie’s producers partnered with a religious public relations expert to promote the film in the Christian community nationwide. The outreach campaign included premieres to benefit Colson’s charity, Prison Fellowship.
       An article in the 11 Aug 1978 HR reported that, notwithstanding big-budget spectacles such as The Ten Commandments (1956, see entry), Born Again had the highest budget for any religious film and was the first to be released by a major distributor.
      In the end credits, producers give thanks to the following organizations: National Park Service; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Capitol Police; Washington, D.C. Metro Police; Executive Protection Service; Sgt. at Arms, U.S. Senate; St. Johns Episcopal Church; Fellowship House. End credits also include the following statement: "Filmed at The Burbank Studios, Burbank, California."
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
23 Jan 1978.
---
Daily Variety
26 Jan 1977.
---
Daily Variety
9 Feb 1978.
---
Daily Variety
14 Jul 1978
p. 1, 20.
Daily Variety
5 Sep 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
Dec 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Dec 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Dec 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Aug 1978
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Nov 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Nov 1978
Section O, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
23 Dec 1977
p. 1, 21.
Los Angeles Times
17 Nov 1978
p. 29.
Variety
6 Sep 1978
p. 22.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Co-Starring:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Robert L. Munger Production
An Avco Embassy Pictures Release
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Key grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Const coord
Stand by painter
COSTUMES
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
SOUND
Prod mixer
Sd eff ed supv
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles des by
Titles des by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting consultant
Scr supv
Craft service
Transportation capt
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod secy
Prod auditor
Washington loc
Washington consultant
Prison consultant
Prison consultant
COLOR PERSONNEL
Color and Opticals by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Born Again by Charles W. Colson (Old Tappan, 1976).
SONGS
"Born Again," music by Les Baxter, lyrics by Craig Johnson, sung by Larnell Harris.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 November 1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 15 November 1978
Production Date:
14 December 1977--8 February 1978 in Washington, D.C. and CA
Copyright Claimant:
Born Again Partners
Copyright Date:
6 November 1978
Copyright Number:
PA16187
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
110
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

As Charles “Chuck” Colson checks in to Alabama’s Maxwell Air Force Base Federal Work Camp on 8 July 1974, he thinks back on the events that led him to the prison. On 3 November 1969, Chuck meets with President Richard M. Nixon who thanks him for consenting to be his special counsel and warns him they have to be aggressive in turning the country around. As Nixon’s term progresses, Chuck helps the president neutralize various political enemies. Their chief critic is Harold Hughes, an Ohio senator who openly condemns Nixon’s administration as paranoid and deceitful. Nixon informs Chuck and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, that if they can end the Vietnam War, they can rid the Senate of detractors like Hughes. Later, the president is dismayed to learn that an advisor Kissinger hired, Daniel Ellsberg, leaked documents damaging to the presidency known as the Pentagon Papers, to the New York Times. When Nixon orders his special counsel to discredit Ellsberg and prevent additional leaks, Chuck recommends that E. Howard Hunt handle the operation. Later, Hunt is implicated when a group of men are caught breaking in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. After Nixon wins his second term, Chuck resigns from the president’s cabinet, feeling “dead inside” and grateful to leave politics behind. He returns to the law practice he shares with David “Dave” Shapiro, who warns he will dissolve the partnership if Chuck is implicated in the Watergate scandal. Chuck reassures Dave that he had nothing to do with Watergate. ... +


As Charles “Chuck” Colson checks in to Alabama’s Maxwell Air Force Base Federal Work Camp on 8 July 1974, he thinks back on the events that led him to the prison. On 3 November 1969, Chuck meets with President Richard M. Nixon who thanks him for consenting to be his special counsel and warns him they have to be aggressive in turning the country around. As Nixon’s term progresses, Chuck helps the president neutralize various political enemies. Their chief critic is Harold Hughes, an Ohio senator who openly condemns Nixon’s administration as paranoid and deceitful. Nixon informs Chuck and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, that if they can end the Vietnam War, they can rid the Senate of detractors like Hughes. Later, the president is dismayed to learn that an advisor Kissinger hired, Daniel Ellsberg, leaked documents damaging to the presidency known as the Pentagon Papers, to the New York Times. When Nixon orders his special counsel to discredit Ellsberg and prevent additional leaks, Chuck recommends that E. Howard Hunt handle the operation. Later, Hunt is implicated when a group of men are caught breaking in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. After Nixon wins his second term, Chuck resigns from the president’s cabinet, feeling “dead inside” and grateful to leave politics behind. He returns to the law practice he shares with David “Dave” Shapiro, who warns he will dissolve the partnership if Chuck is implicated in the Watergate scandal. Chuck reassures Dave that he had nothing to do with Watergate. As rumors of his participation in the scandal increase, however, Chuck goes to Nixon on 13 February 1973, and urges the President to openly investigate the men responsible for the break-in. Later, Dave sends Chuck to Boston, Massachusetts, to regain the business of a former client, Tom Phillips, of Raytheon Company. There, Chuck learns that Tom has committed his life to Jesus Christ and has acquired a newfound serenity that Chuck finds enviable. When he returns home, Chuck hears that the Watergate special prosecutor wants a deeper investigation of Chuck’s role in the incident. When he learns that Nixon surreptitiously conducted surveillance in the executive office, Chuck begins to doubt that his ruthless actions as special counsel were justified. Later, Chuck visits Tom and as the man describes being born again, Chuck finds that the feelings of worthlessness, paranoia and fruitless striving that led to Tom’s conversion resonate with him as well. Tom encourages Chuck to learn more about Christianity and promises to send his friend, Douglas Coe, to call on him. After leaving Tom’s house, Chuck contemplates the emptiness of his life and feels spiritually bereft, but the next day, he has a religious epiphany; he asks Jesus Christ to come into his life and feels born again. Back at the law office, Chuck gets a visit from Coe, who welcomes Chuck into the brotherhood of other powerful men in Washington, DC, who are born again, including his old adversary Harold Hughes. Although Chuck scoffs at the idea that Hughes would ever accept him, Coe assures him the enmity is in the past. Upon learning that a grand jury is investigating his role in a break-in at Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, Chuck voluntarily testifies, hoping his forthrightness will convince the jury of his innocence. Instead, the prosecution implicates Chuck in the Watergate affair. In order to prevent the Watergate grand jury from using Chuck’s statements against him, Dave advises his partner to plead the Fifth Amendment when he is called to testify. Chuck fears that “pleading the Fifth” will make him look guilty but he follows Dave’s advice. Meanwhile, Senator Hughes learns of Chuck’s spiritual conversion but doubts his rival’s sincerity. When Chuck relates the story of his epiphany, however, Hughes welcomes him as a brother in Christ and pledges the support of his fellow born-again Christians. Soon afterward, a reporter learns that Chuck joined Hughes’s prayer meetings and publicizes the story of Chuck’s conversion. Although Dave worries that the media coverage will negatively impact the public perception of Chuck, the new Watergate prosecutor indicates that he has seen no evidence linking Chuck to Watergate; however, he must address Chuck’s role in breaking into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. If Chuck admits that he knew of and approved the break-in, the prosecutor will have the charge reduced to a misdemeanor, leaving Chuck free to continue practicing law. Because accepting the deal would be confessing to an untruth, Chuck decides against taking the plea bargain. After pleading not guilty, Chuck is indicted. His brothers in Christ rally around him and Hughes suggests Chuck do a television interview to explain his actions. After the interview, Chuck realizes that despite his newfound acceptance of Christ, he is still trying to protect himself. The only solution is to admit to his role in attempting to smear Ellsberg. While Dave thinks Chuck is unwise to plead guilty to a wrongdoing with which he has not been charged, he respects his partner’s moral reasons for doing so. On 21 June 1974, Chuck goes to court and pleads guilty to discrediting Ellsberg. In light of other verdicts related to Watergate, Dave is certain Judge Gesell will give Chuck a light punishment, but the judge sentences him to one to three years in federal prison. At the prison work camp, Chuck is befriended by Paul Kramer and comes under the protection of longtime convict Jimmy Newsom. Soon, Paul informs Chuck that another inmate wants to kill him but he doesn’t know why. Later, Chuck is granted permission to start a Bible study group and Jimmy and his friends attend as a joke. Later, Jimmy is called to the parole board but since he has been refused twice, he scoffs at his chances. The next time Jimmy is eligible, the members of the Bible study pray for his parole, but Jimmy has no faith in their efforts and is certain he will be turned down again. Instead, he gets paroled. Jimmy confides in Chuck that he had dismissed the others’ faith, but now that he has seen the power of it, he is a true believer. After Bible study one night, Chuck is cornered by the man who wants to kill him, a former Chicago police detective named Scanlon who blames Chuck for the scandal that turned him into a scapegoat and sent him to prison. Elsewhere, Paul admits to Jimmy that Chuck should not be left alone, due to the threat against his life. Jimmy and Paul run to find and restrain Scanlon just before he hurts Chuck. Chuck convinces Scanlon that the justice department, not the White House, was responsible for the Chicago scandal, and insists Jimmy release him. Soon afterward, Jimmy leaves the prison and thanks Chuck for instilling faith in him. Later, after learning that he has been disbarred, that other Watergate participants have been released, and that his son has been arrested for possession of marijuana, Chuck has a crisis of faith and blames God for his troubles. At that moment, Chuck hears that a member of his brotherhood wants to finish out Chuck’s prison term so that Chuck can return to his family. Although Chuck does not allow his friend to make that sacrifice for him, the act of kindness renews his faith in God. Sometime later, Dave informs Chuck that Judge Gessell has released him from prison because of family reasons. On the day he leaves the work camp, Chuck urges Paul to lead the Bible study after his departure and invites his friend to work for him when he is released. After reuniting with his family, Chuck runs into a colleague now working for the new president, Gerald Ford, and explains that he and Hughes are starting a prison ministry. As the two men part ways, each expresses relief that he does not have the other’s life. +

GENRE
Genre:


Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.